Social Workers

How is the system doing?

Key points from recent discussion from the Guardian Social Care Network about the child protection system and how it is faring. Some examples of what said are below:

Misrepresentation of Social Work

Andrew Webb, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services: “I agree entirely with the comments about us needing to understand and promote sucess in working with children at risk of harm. But I still get very frustrated by the lack of sustained access for the sector to promote this in the face of all the presumptions about how our systems are failing so many children.”


Building trust between families and the authorities

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of the Family Rights Group: “What can make a difference is access to specialist independent advice and advocacy – with advisers who can assist families to navigate the system and consider what is in the child’s interests and what would work, without fear that that the adviser will judge them or has power over them.”


Improving liaison between different organisations

June Thoburn, professor of social work, University of East Anglia: “Working across agencies and professions works best when a ‘team around the family’ approach is used, and that works best when child and family social work teams combine family support and child protection work and are locality based.”

David Niven, of David Niven Associates: “All serious case reviews talk about failures in communication between agencies – this is true but I believe it’s compounded by massive restructuring in most organisations, partly due to the austerity measures, and so the people in different agencies that are meant to liaise with each other now frequently have never met so there is no relationship to built on.”

Carol Long: “Some local authorities already have a multi-agency safeguarding hub or similar which, if they are working effectively, show great promise in identifying cases where children may be at risk. ”

Sue Woolmore, chair, Association of Independent LSCB Chairs: “Local safeguarding children boards have a role to play in creating a culture of information sharing which puts the needs of the child at the centre, rather than allowing workers to feel inhibited by threats of legal action/data protection/confidentiality. This is no easy task and is a real test of how child-centred the system is willing to be.”

Establishing Good Relationships

Establishing a good working relationship with your social worker is, of course, a two way street. It is the responsibility of both of you to try to make it  work, for the good of your child. If either of you is rude, dismissive or doesn’t seem to be listening, the relationship will struggle.

This doesn’t mean that either the parent or the social worker has to be 100% well behaved 100% of the time; this probably isn’t possible. We are all human and the parent/social work relationship has the potential to be difficult even at the best of times.

But if either person is aware that they haven’t behaved well then they need to apologise sincerely and take action to make things better.

Here is a helpful short video explaining the 3 necessary things to establish a good relationship of ANY kind.

Those 3 things are:


you have to commit to any relationship for it to grow


don’t be insincere, people will notice and it harms the relationship


if you are not talking opening and listening carefully to one another, the relationship can’t work.

Edit  – the point of this post was NOT to suggest that we ought to expect social workers to behave badly to the point that they fail to adhere to professional standards and ethical codes. The point being made was that the social work/parent relationship is one between two humans, working in often stressful and difficult situations. But if anyone feels their social worker has acted unprofessionally then they must complain about this kind of behaviour, it is not acceptable.

To read more about making a complaint about a professional, see our post here.


The danger of polarised positions

A failure to grasp the complex realities of child protection work.

Here is an interesting article from Ray Jones of Community Care who points out that the debate about child protection needs much more nuance than can be obtained from ‘headline grabbing simplicity’ about what social workers should be doing.

Read the article here.